Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Lead Senior Scientist.
For years, the concept of prioritization as an element of TSCA reform has enjoyed support from a broad array of stakeholders. The number of chemicals in active commerce is large, if uncertain: surely less than the 85,000 listed on the TSCA Inventory, but still in the tens of thousands. That sheer number demands that EPA develop and apply a process to decide where to start and how to sequence the enormous task of reviewing the safety of those chemicals.
There has also been widespread agreement that EPA should make an initial pass using available information to identify three groups of chemicals: a) those that present significant hazard or exposure potential or both; b) those for which existing information doesn’t raise such concerns; and c) those that need more information to determine their level of concern.
As conceived, prioritization was to be a low-stakes proposition for the various stakeholders, simply the means to get the new system up and running. Prioritization decisions would not be final actions; rather, they were expressly designed to minimize dispute, and would be barred from legal challenge. Chemicals identified as high priority and in need of immediate scrutiny would get a more thorough assessment before any decision as to whether they posed significant risk and required a regulatory response. Chemicals identified as low-priority would be so designated provisionally based on less than a thorough assessment, and could be revisited if and when new information arose. And chemicals lacking sufficient information to be prioritized would be subject to further data collection and generation, and then funneled back into the prioritization process.
These concepts are well-established both in the outcomes of industry-NGO negotiations and in heavily negotiated provisions of the more recent incarnations of the Safe Chemicals Act.
But then some folks got greedy. Read More